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Blind Salvage(Rylee Adamson #5)(3) by Shannon Mayer

Liam grunted, but didn’t excuse his former boss. He was one of those supernaturals now. And though it felt as natural to him as breathing, and he wondered how he had existed without knowing the supernatural before, he did understand what Valley was saying. It took some getting used to. Hell, he’d been far more freaked out the first time he’d met Alex.

“How are you handling the transition?” Agent Valley tucked his hands into his coat pockets.

Liam would never tell Valley the truth. Since he’d been freed from Milly and then freed from the control of his own wolf, there was a good deal of peace in him. For the first time in his life he knew where each step took him.

Rylee. Always Rylee.

And being a werewolf meant that no matter where she went, or what she was up against, he would be there to protect her.

“The transition has been fine. Easy.”

“I thought when you’d run off, back home, that you’d lost it altogether. There are numerous cases where that has happened.”

Alex gave a low growl. “Fatty stupid head. Boss is strong.”

Agent Valley glared down at Alex, who glared right back up at the agent. Liam had to bite his tongue to keep from smiling. Instead, he cleared his throat.

“Agent Valley, I have to go.” He didn’t want to say he had to shift forms in order to catch up to Rylee and Pamela. “So if you have something of importance to share with me, I suggest you do it now.”

His former boss drew his eyes away from Alex and refocused on Liam.

“If you don’t want to work for us directly, that’s fine. But as a former FBI agent, I’d ask you to keep us informed of the goings-on that you observe.”

Liam’s eyebrows shot upward. “Goings-on?” He damn well knew where this was headed and he didn’t like it. They were in the backyard now, and Jack watched them from an upper window. He probably thought that they couldn’t see him, but the flutter of the curtains as the old Tracker stepped up to the window caught Liam’s eye.

Agent Valley flapped his coat with his hands still in his pockets. “We need to be kept up to speed on what is happening in the supernatural world. I have only one other contact, and between you and me, that makes me nervous. I can’t be certain the information is correct when it is only from one source. You are our best bet for additional information, as Rylee seems to be at the center of so much; hell, she’s nearly always in the thick of things. Will you help us?”

Liam crossed his arms over his chest. Rylee would be beyond livid if she found out he was secretly feeding information to the FBI and Agent Valley. Loyalty, though, was something Liam understood all too well. As loyal as he was to Rylee, he had a loyalty to those he’d once worked for too. And a part of him recognized that Valley was right. The Arcane Arts division of the FBI needed help and information badly.

He took a deep breath, the decisions weighing in his mind. He stuck his hand out, and Agent Valley shook it.

“Good man. I’ll expect you will have something for us on a regular basis, say once a week?”

Laughing, Liam shook his head. “You’ll get what you get and nothing more. Everything I can send you will be via snail mail. Electronics aren’t all that favorable around me anymore.”

Agent Valley frowned. “That will take too long; we’ll be behind the eight ball right off the start line.”

“That’s all I can offer.” He waited, knowing Valley would take him up on it. Liam also knew that, in a pinch, the AA division could be useful for Rylee; might even have information that she could use in her salvages. That was how he justified it; how he soothed the niggling thoughts that he was making the wrong decision.

“Fine. We’ll try it.”

Maybe it was some perverse pleasure he took in making his old boss uncomfortable, but he didn’t look away from him as he shifted. The wolf in him clamored up, eager to break free of the bonds of the human flesh that held him.

Agent Valley’s eyes widened and his face drained of color. “Mother of God have mercy,” he whispered as he stumbled backward.

Alex looked from Liam to Agent Valley and snorted. “Pussy.”

In the back of the cab, Pamela hummed a song under her breath, her toes tapping the floor. She was obviously restless, and though my body was still, I wasn’t much better. I pushed Agent Valley and his request for help with Orion aside in favor of other things. My mind swirled back to my conversation with Doran, just before he left for the states. A conversation I hadn’t even shared with Liam.

“Rylee, I need to speak with you.” Doran put a hand to my elbow, quickly dropping it when I glared at him. He wasn’t cowed by me, but I’d saved his ass by breaking the bond between him and Berget, and he wasn’t likely to forget that. That gained me some leverage that I would use whenever I had to.

He owed me and I would use that to benefit the salvages I would go after. We knew where we stood with each other, which was as it should be.

He led the way to the rooftop, the night sky clear of clouds for what had to be the first time since I’d been in London. The bite of the wind reminded me of home, and a longing to be away from this place shot through me. I knew that it had less to do with sleeping in my own bed than it did with all that had happened here. All that I’d had to fight through and the secrets that had been uncovered, even the questions that had yet to be answered.

Eve slept deeply off to one side, her head tucked under her wing, feathers ruffling in the breeze. At least if Doran acted up, I had back up. Not that I was worried, not really. More than once Doran had the chance to kill me, or at least the chances had presented themselves on a number of occasions.

I kept my voice low, so as not to disturb the Harpy. She didn’t do well being startled awake. “You want to tell me what this is about?”

“I think you need to understand what happened with the vampires, how Berget became what she is. I can give you everything I know. Which is a lot in some ways, and not near enough in others.” His green eyes were serious, something Doran didn’t do often. It made him look more mature, far less the punk rock boy he presented to the world, and more the powerhouse Shaman I knew he was. There was no teasing light in him, no double entendre to piss me off. This shift in him was almost as worrisome as his lack of control when he first showed up in London.

I turned my back to him and set my hands on my hips. I wanted to know, I needed to understand. But I had a feeling that knowing wasn’t going to make me feel any better about Berget and this current situation. I blew out a sharp breath between my teeth and turned back to Doran. “Tell me.”

He dove right in. “You understand that Berget was initially taken because of her blood, that she was one of those our kind can’t resist?” He lifted an eyebrow at me.

I nodded. “Louisa told me that, the first time I visited her.”

Doran clasped his hands in front of him and pursed his lips. “She was taken to be a gift to the Emperor and the Empress. A blood gift to secure the favor of Faris’ old master. That is why he was sent to steal her away.”

I grit my teeth. I was angry with Faris, but even angrier with myself that I’d let myself trust him, let myself believe that a vampire could be trusted. He was the start of all my troubles, the one who’d stolen Berget away and had set me on the path I’d walked since then. Regardless of who had ordered it, in my mind this all fell squarely on him.

“Are you telling me it wasn’t his fault?” Eyes narrowed, I glared at Doran.

He shrugged, unperturbed. “Most of those that are Fanged do not have the luxury of doing what we want. Depending on who holds the reins of power we can be used as they see fit.”

I could blame Faris for his lies, that was straight forward. But maybe I couldn’t blame him for taking Berget. I shook myself and pushed away that thought. No, I’d seen Faris there, seen the light of hunger in his eyes. He’d been hoping for a taste of her too.

Doran’s eyes slid to half-mast as he spoke. “When they got her back to Venice for the Emperor and Empress, it was apparent that the Empress was taken with her youthful beauty and sweet disposition.”

Six years old, Berget had been only six when she was taken. My guts rolled with disgust. “What do you mean by ‘taken’?”

The Daywalker shook his head. “Not like that.” He took a breath and shook his head again before he went on. “Vampires can’t procreate; they can’t have children unless they steal them. It was immediate, the bond the Empress had with Berget. I knew the Empress; she was my master before Berget. It was more than a bond of mother and child. It was almost like the Empress saw a future for Berget. Which wouldn’t surprise me since the Empress was a Reader long before she was a vampire. In the end, she chose to keep and raise Berget rather than … .” His eyes opened and he stared into mine, the air between us chilling. “It would have been better if they’d killed her, if there had been nothing more than a meal in your sister’s future.”

I clenched my fists so hard my nails dug into the palms of my hands, the minor pain welcome and easier to focus on. It didn’t matter that I knew Doran was right. I just hated to hear him say it, hated that the truth sucked so badly.

“Keep going.”

“They kept her secluded, let her feed off them. That is the start of Becoming.”

The first memory Faris had shown me, I’d seen tiny bite marks all over the Empress’ body. Now I knew them for what they were. Berget’s bite marks. Nausea rolled up, hot and acrid as it coated the back of my tongue. I clamped my mouth shut, clenching my teeth until they ached. Doran waited for me, letting me absorb his words at my own pace.

My heart rate slowed back down and I waved him to go on, afraid that if I opened my mouth, I’d spew chunks all over the roof.

“I cannot tell you the ritual of how a vampire is created, but” —he unclasped his hands to set them on his hips— “you will have to trust me that what I’m telling you is the truth, as far as I am able to share it with you. Becoming a vampire, it takes time. There is no instant creation—a one night blood exchange—as some would have you believe. Berget, the Berget you knew, became buried under the blood she was taking, of what she was becoming. Glimpses of her showed from time to time. A child full of love and compassion. I had hope that things would be better with her as a leader. But then … .” He shook his head. “I was there, when Faris killed her parents—”